Good news: on Tuesday, the Idaho state Senate put a stop to a bill that would’ve criminalized providing healthcare to transgender children under the age of 18. According to Reuters, Republican leaders said it undermined parental rights and amounted to government overreach.
Bad news: Idaho’s GOP didn’t just suddenly grow a conscience when it comes to the rights of trans kids and their families. They continue to stand by their opposition to any kind of trans-related medical care.
The Idaho Statesman quoted a news release in which the Republican senators oppose “any and all gender reassignment and surgical manipulation of the natural [sic] sex of minors.” However, they said that the bill, which passed the Idaho State House last week pretty much along party lines, “undermines parental rights and allows the government to interfere in parents’ medical decision-making authority for their children.”
“We believe in parents’ rights,” the senators said in their news release, “and that the best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents, with the benefit of their physician’s advice and expertise.”
This language proves it is possible for the GOP to recognize that individual patients and their physicians deserve the right to make personal medical decisions without government interference — so long as those decisions don’t apply directly to anyone’s uterus, apparently.
The senators were reportedly moved by the fact that the bill might have the unintended consequence of denying “medically necessary care for kids that is in no way related to transgender therapy, but serves children with highly specialized medical needs.”
By this logic, they’re saying that it would be OK to give a child puberty blockers to pause the production of sex hormones if the child is too young, but not if the child is too trans. Puberty blockers are often prescribed to trans kids in order to give them time to decide how they want to express their gender identity. A child taking puberty blockers will not, for example, develop breasts, menstruate, or grow facial hair. The effects are fully reversible, and the treatment is considered safe by medical professionals.
The defeated Idaho bill would have made it a felony to give young people puberty blockers, hormones, or gender-affirming surgeries. In an enraging twist, the bill was drafted by altering current state law outlawing female genital mutilation.
The Idaho bill was in the same hateful spirit as Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s declaration that providing such care constitutes child abuse. A state judge issued an injunction against Abbott’s order last Friday. (Terrifyingly, the Austin American-Statesman reported that nine investigations, now blocked, were already underway.)
There are so many bills circulating in state legislatures across the country. Eight states have passed laws that prohibit youth from playing sports on teams that correspond with their gender identity. A horrifying bill in Alabama that has already been approved by their state Senate, and could be up for a vote in the House as early as next week, would not only make it illegal to provide healthcare to trans kids, but force teachers and other school staff to out trans kids to their parents.
Organizations of medical professionals, such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have issued statements in support of gender-affirming care for trans youth. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that youth who were provided this kind of care — including puberty blockers — were 73% less likely to die by suicide.
Yet versions of the anti-trans Idaho bill are currently up for discussion in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. A systemic, state-by-state chipping away of vital healthcare that determines the course of your life — people with ovaries, does this all feel creepily familiar?
The answer to these widespread local efforts is robust legal protection on the national level, as would be offered by the Equality Act, which “prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” The Equality Act passed the House a little over a year ago and is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle to accumulate the 60 votes it would need for a filibuster-proof majority.